The Five Page Rule
Since the inception of ForFemFan, I’ve aimed to read a minimum of 50 pages of every book I review. I felt like that was a fair number of pages—it gave the author plenty of time to hit their stride, set up hooks, and otherwise convince me to see the story through to the back cover.
Over the past few years, the hunch started to form that I was wrong.
Fifty pages is literally a third of some of these books while for others it barely is enough time to introduce me to the central plot.
Most books that I eventually gave up on made it very clear I wouldn’t like them far before I reached page 50.
While there were some books that started out mediocre that ended up quite good, there were no books that I initially wanted to give up on but eventually grew to appreciate.
Most damning, though, was that when I was in the middle of a book I didn’t enjoy, I would procrastinate reading it. Which meant that it would take me that much longer to eventually reach the point where I’d feel comfortable quitting, which meant that, in turn, it would take me longer to move onto a book I actually had the possibility of enjoying.
At the same time, though, I didn’t want to go fast-and-loose with abandoning books. Some books start off slow and require a little investment to get over the hump
To try to put this bad habit to rest, I’ve instituted a new rule: I have to read five pages a day. If I miss that deadline, I have to retire the book. Maybe not forever-forever, but, at the very least, it has to go back into the rotation.
This new rule has had an unintended side-effect: helping me spot which books I don’t really want to read with greater clarity. Yesterday, sometime in the mid-morning, I thought to myself “Ugh, I should read five pages of [book] so I can get that out of the way.”
I love reading, and yet here I was forcing myself to read like I might force myself to take out the garbage or load the dishwasher.
It was a moment of beautiful clarity that I wouldn’t have gotten with my previous system.
The five page rule is here to stay.